BY HOPE RACINE
On Monday, Jan. 20, five students from the University of Mary Washington traveled to Richmond, Va. to join the Virginia Student Environmental Coalition (VSEC) to petition Dominion Power Company.
According to Zakaria Kronemer, a junior philosophy major and chair of the VSEC, the coalition, comprised of students from various Virginia universities, gathered to “advocate for our representation in decisions being made on environmental policy and also to meet with our legislators.”
Students from seven Virginia schools were present, including Virginia Tech, Old Dominion University, University of Virginia, William and Mary, Eastern Mennonite University and Virginia Commonwealth University.
Kronemer and the other UMW students are all members of Divest UMW, an on-campus organization focused on encouraging the administration to withdraw its investments from the fossil fuel industry and other environmentally irresponsible sectors of the economy and to reinvest elsewhere. All the students who participated are also members of the VSEC.
According to Kronemer, Virginia based power company Dominion Resources contributed more than $6 million in campaign funds to various political officials.
“In a state that is being choked by fossil fuel interests, we do not feel that our poor energy policies have been a coincidence,” Kronemer said. “We gathered at Dominion’s Steps to stand up for the voice of the people of Virginia over the influence of dirty money.”
Students of the VSEC met in Richmond on Sunday to prepare for Monday’s march and also planned future events such as Virginia Powershift, an April event that encourages and informs students about social and environmental issues.
At Monday’s protest, members of VSEC marched from Dominion Power’s headquarters to the General Assembly Building. According to Kronemer, the students attached a string to Dominion Power’s building and brought the string with them to “illustrate the connection between the energy titan’s profits and the pockets of state legislators.”
While the students planned to meet with Gov. Terry McAuliffe, he was in session and unavailable.
“We were lucky that Ashley Nixon, a recent graduate of UMW, worked in his office and was willing to sit with us to discuss why we came to Richmond,” Kronemer said. “She also delivered a letter written by each of us that urged McAuliffe to vote for and against certain upcoming bills.”
Despite not being able to meet with McAuliffe, the VSEC considered the march a success.
“Combining the symbolism of our action with the direct interactions with our legislative offices advanced a really powerful message. We gave pressure from the outside as well as the inside,” Kronemer said.
BY HOPE RACINE